lifestyle

Knowing your worth in an international relationship

36 Comments
By Hilary Keyes

Since I started the Ask Hilary series, I’ve received a number of letters from both Japanese and international women asking about how they should feel in their relationship with their international/Japanese partner. Many of them describe the relationship starting off like a fairytale, but gradually becoming less fulfilling than other relationships they’ve had. It would just be easy to dismiss this as the end of the honeymoon period, or to tell them “that’s just how multicultural relationships work”, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone. Open and honest communication is a huge part of having a successful international relationship but what if you’re communicating and still not satisfied?

One common point mentioned by many of these women is somehow feeling “less” than their partner—be that for financial, physical, linguistic, or other reasons. I asked the women in five successful international couples how they handled this feeling, and all five discussed dealing with issues of self-worth.

Self-worth And Impostor Syndrome

The dictionary definition of self-worth/self-esteem is “a sense of one’s own value as a human being” and “a feeling that you are a good person who deserves to be treated with respect”.

People with high self-worth feel good about themselves; they know they are a good person and take pride in their strengths. They know they have weaknesses, but aren’t defined by them. On the other hand, people with a low perception of self-worth feel like they are less than others and focus more on their weaknesses.

For the five women I spoke to, their self-worth initially hinged on their living circumstances. For some, coming to Japan felt like a new adventure at first. “I came to Japan with zero money, no friends, no support, and the barest minimum of Japanese skill. I felt like I was trailblazing my way through life. [Then,] I bought fabric softener instead of laundry soap, got the garbage days wrong, and I had to get a Japanese person from my office to come help me get a cell phone. I went from feeling like a badass to a needy loser. My self-esteem was the lowest it had been in years.” (S, American, 41)

Click here to read more.

© Savvy Tokyo

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

36 Comments
Login to comment

I've known a few western women over the years who have found it difficult coming to Japan, and suddenly not getting male attention like they did back home. In their home countries, they were used to being more aggressively pursued, then they come to Japan where a significant portion of the western men are interested in Japanese women, and the Japanese men aren't generally the type to aggressively pursue women.

Some women I know have dealt with this better than others. Some of them end up in relationships with real crappy guys, simply because they are the guys who are showing them attention. It's sad to see.

I think this is is a contributor to why more Western males seem to stay long term in Japan than Western women.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I would say next to no man with half a brain would come single to Japan unless Japanese women were fairly high on his list and vice versa. Women on the other hand will come to Japan without a thought as to their feelings about dating a Japanese man without even considering how Japanese men feel about them. So men are in a place with a large number of women they are interested in and interested in them, and women come to a place with a small number of men interested in them and vice versa. The rest is basic probability.

Anyway, its always fascinating how people can work so hard against their own best interests. Its also fascinating how the genders can do that in their own short-sighted ways.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I think this is is a contributor to why more Western males seem to stay long term in Japan than Western women

Good post. I came here with my British wife and she and her foreign friends can be really scathing about foreign men with Japanese women, but seem less scathing about foreign women with Japanese men. I’m sure we are all familiar with the “He wouldn’t be popular in his own country” line.

I’d also add that many western women find it very difficult in a Japanese workplace. Many of the women I’ve worked with who were transferred here don’t tend to last very long. I can’t say I blame them.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

she and her foreign friends can be really scathing about foreign men with Japanese women but seem less scathing about foreign women with Japanese men.

They sound like the very reason some foreign men have a preference for Japanese women.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I’m sure we are all familiar with the “He wouldn’t be popular in his own country” line.

Yep. I had no idea I would be popular here. Its not why I came but it is why I stayed. I don't mind the accusation just so long as it does not come with negative connotation. But usually it does and what those women tend to overlook is the fact they are not my type either and nor would I have dated them for money so.....might be best not to climb atop such a high horse.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I’m sure we are all familiar with the “He wouldn’t be popular in his own country” line.

There you have it, the truth. When I visit the US from time to time, I think some women are very attractive, but at the end of the day, Japanese women have generally good hygiene and I couldn't go back to the take it or leave it mentality back home.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

StrangerlandToday 07:23 am JST

I've known a few western women over the years who have found it difficult coming to Japan, and suddenly not getting male attention like they did back home. In their home countries, they were used to being more aggressively pursued, then they come to Japan where a significant portion of the western men are interested in Japanese women, and the Japanese men aren't generally the type to aggressively pursue women.

Some women I know have dealt with this better than others. Some of them end up in relationships with real crappy guys, simply because they are the guys who are showing them attention. It's sad to see.

Actually, I have been much more aggressively pursued in Japan. So much so that I would liken it to continual low-grade sexual harassment from the time I arrived to the time until I became old enough that men don't see me as a sexual target so much any more - and thank goddess for that. It went from getting harassed daily to getting harassed only once in three or four months.

That has been the experience of other women I know as well - that Japanese men mainly see foreign women as targets for sexual attention rather than as partners. There are lots of reasons for that, but I don't see the point in going into that here.

I'm sure that there are other women just don't get that kind of attention at all, but IMO they should be glad of it. It's not a bad thing to date someone who is not so conventionally good-looking but is kind and treats you well. I wouldn't trade an ordinary but nice and kind guy for an "ikeman" for anything.

As for women putting up with bad behavior just to be in a relationship at all...well, that definitely is a sad state of affairs, and I have seen that myself as well. I personally have never really understood the dependent streak that seems to run through a lot of women so that they feel they must have a partner at all times, and sacrifice their self-respect to have one. But that's me - I'm more independent than the average person, so I can't really put myself in their shoes easily.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Elvis is hereToday 12:56 pm JST

she and her foreign friends can be really scathing about foreign men with Japanese women but seem less scathing about foreign women with Japanese men.

They sound like the very reason some foreign men have a preference for Japanese women.

I don't care if someone has a personal preference and has particular "type." Everyone has preferences; it can't be helped and it's not a big deal. But what I do not like is when people put down people just because they aren't their type - e.g., make generalized statements about appearance or personality in order to denigrate an entire group of people.

And you know who usually does that? Foreign men.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

"women asking about how they should feel in their relationship with their international/Japanese partner"

Pretty sure anyone should feel the same in their relationship with their partner regardless of their partner's nationality. What a weird take on this topic.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

But what I do not like is when people put down people just because they aren't their type - e.g., make generalized statements about appearance or personality in order to denigrate an entire group of people.

And you know who usually does that? Foreign men.

I dunno. When I’ve been drinking with my wife and her friends ( and some coworkers ) I’ve heard terrible comments about foreign men with Japanese women. Posters here seem to be as familiar with the “He wouldn’t be popular in his own country” hisses. This seems to be more of a woman than a man thing. Nasty comments about clothes and looks are pretty common.

Other hisses include ‘loser’ as they dismiss them as Eikawa teachers. I find it interesting in that they don’t know what job they do and the snobbery based on what someone does for a living always irritates me. To be fair, I’ve heard this from both men and women.

As for denigrating foreign women. I’ve heard many foreign men ( and Japanese men ) comment on how Japanese women are usually in better shape than western women, although I’d add that I’ve seen plenty of spare tyres on the men making those comments.

A bit of a mixed bag in my experience. Hard to pin down who is worse.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I can only imagine being a Western woman married or working in Japan...geez, the nightmare

One common point mentioned by many of these women is somehow feeling “less” than their partner—be that for financial, physical, linguistic, or other reasons

this is the way most international marriages usually work out; one partner ends up being on the losing side, its the suck of being in such a relationship. Your dependent on your spouse for allot. Meaning, you are the one who must adapt, limited career options, missing family, dreams vanish, lack of being understood, gas lighting, etc etc. The same if the Japanese partner goes overseas, but in some cases its a bonus for them for education opportunity, freedom, etc. but they also suffer from homesickness and racism.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

And you know who usually does that? Foreign men.

I find pretty much all groups guilty in their own way, Japanese, foreign, male or female. They just don't see it as denigrating when they agree with the negative stereotype. Its when you disagree that it hits you. That said, some stereotypes are generally true, whether negative or positive.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@TheLongTermer: there is some wisdom in your post for men as well. Finally my son entering college and I can get back to my own country.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Meh. More often than not, the more one concentrates on one's self worth, the worse one's self-worth becomes. The ineffectiveness of (Freudian) psychoanalysis gives strong support to that point.

In my experience, the women who adopted the motto "When in Rome, do the Romans," have a great time in Japan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@TheLongTermer: there is some wisdom in your post for men as well. Finally my son entering college and I can get back to my own country.

allot of it depends on your partners experiences. If they have not lived abroad, then they cannot comprehend what your complaining about and will blame you. Its tough on both people. From my experiences, Japanese are not big on being empathetic, and your more or less, on your own, but that has its positives as well.

The culture is also a big thing. Respect for Westerners who marry a person from China or Japan and then live in their country, because these cultures are exclusionary, and for the most part, completely alien to us. If an American marries a Brit, for example, there are still cultural differences but more in common than different. Marry an Italian..more challenging due to their family oriented society, but still easier than Asia.

in my experience, the women who adopted the motto "When in Rome, do the Romans," have a great time in Japan.

100% disagree with that, actually that advice makes it worse. Dont take it personally; I pretty much disagree with any of the advice I see written about Japan, most of it completely misses the mark.

My advice is learn the language and culture to survive but never go native. Find a way to ebb in and out of it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In the west, if it's a measuring stick, 2/3 out of 5 marriages end in divorce.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

“2/3 out of 5”

Is that the same as 7 out of 10? In any case, it’s simply not true.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think he meant 2-3 out of 5, which is 1 out of 2. Divorce rates are very high and we should accept that most marriages are temporary which is fine and nothing to be ashamed of. Another trend is that large numbers of people simply never marry and that it also fine. I think these trends will not reverse.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is that the same as 7 out of 10? In any case, it’s simply not true.

But it is.

Divorce Rates

1st marriage 42%

2nd marriage 60%

3rd marriage 73%

32-shocking-divorce-statistics

https://www.mckinleyirvin.com/family-law-blog/2012/october/32-shocking-divorce-statistics/

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@zichi, my buddy got divorced after about 15 years and jumped right back in a second time for 2 years and just got divorced and is ready to jump back in again! It is kind of amusing even though I counsel him against it. I think like any tough experience, once you go through it you are not afraid of it the second or third or fourth time...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Reckless

My son and his partner started their relationship at school when they were 16 years. They are now both 45 years with two beautiful teen kids. They have never married or even discussed that.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_in_the_United_States

“Having spoken with academics and National Survey of Family Growth representatives, PolitiFact.com estimated in 2012 that the lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce is 40%–50%.”

Zichi, your 2/3 of marriages will end in divorce claim based on that 73% dissolution statistic for third marriages is completely incorrect. Your very own stats tell us that 58% of first marriages DON’T end in divorce.

Another thing, these stats are for the US and need to be qualified as such when making extravagant claims for the likelihood of divorce elsewhere.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

oyatoi

Another thing, these stats are for the US and need to be qualified as such when making extravagant claims for the likelihood of divorce elsewhere.

I posted the original comment

In the west, if it's a measuring stick, 2/3 out of 5 marriages end in divorce.

Did you miss "In the west?"

2/3 western marriages will end in divorce.

Stats like that have been around for decades.

I didn't mention divorce rates in Japan because I don't know what they are.

International marriages have a higher rate of divorce.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Zichi: You’re flogging a dead horse. Contrary to what you claim, 2/3 of marriages in the West will NOT end in divorce. You told us that yourself in the statistic you posted “42% of first marriages will end in divorce”. In other words, 58% of marriages DON’T end in divorce. Math is obviously not your strong point.

Also, your McKinley link specifically states that the statistics (you’ve misunderstood) are only for the US. So, you’re making another mistake in using them as support for your blanket statement starting “in the West”.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Divorce in the West and the Orient are 2 different concepts that most get wrong. Many Japanese are in sexless and loveless marriages, so they have love affairs to cope with the misery, which basically is the same things as a divorce, but they wont divorce because marriage in Japan, like everything else, is an obligation. Divorce = shame or haji.

So they will stay together, for the children, because of the shame of divorce, and the obligation to their inlaws and parents. Its a very weird dynamic.

Whereas, in the West, if its not working out, your told to be done with it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is also one of the many reasons, that are unspoken, why Japanese wont get married these days.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

oyatori

Divorce Rates

1st marriage 42% equals 2 out 5 marriages

2nd marriage 60% equals 3 out of 5 marriages

3rd marriage 73% equals 3.65 out of 5 marriages.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated in 2012 that 42% of marriages in England and Wales would end in divorce.

That's 2 out of 5

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44253225

Highest divorce rates

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/highest-divorce-rate/

America third highest

Math is obviously not your strong point.

Top of the class and went on to become measurement and instrument engineer. All maths.

divorce rates

EU 44.19% 2 out of 5

France 54.29%

Germany 40%

Spain 56.76%

Portugal 70.97%

Luxembourg 65.63%

Japan 34.69%

United States 46.38%

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_demography#Divorce_statistics_by_country

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Zichi: Everything comes back to your bogus statement, “In the (W)est .......2/3 out of 5 marriages end in divorce.”

“Top of the class.....” I wouldn’t care a jot if you won the Field Prize. Your argument that 2/3 of marriages in the West end in divorce is bunkum. And in providing a whole lot of extraneous detail about individual countries, only two of which (Portugal and Luxembourg) agree with you, you’ve succeeded only in burying yourself deeper.

EU 44.19% 2 out of 5”

Well blow me down! Before, you said 2/3 out of 5. Retraction (apology) accepted.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

oyatori

Well blow me down! Before, you said 2/3 out of 5. Retraction (apology) accepted

The EU figure is the general one for 28 countries.

No I made the general comment in the west 2/3 marriages end in divorce which they do. Portugal 70.79%, Luxembourg 70.97%, Estonia 52.08%, Finland 55.56%

I stand by my comment that in the west 2 to 3 marriages end in divorce. That's 40-60%.

No more comments I have decided to divorce you!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Belgium has the highest rate of divorce in this data set at a staggering 70%.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi:

“In the (W)est 2/3 out of 5 marriages end in divorce”

”2/3 (W)estern marriages will end in divorce”

“I stand by my comment that in the (W)est 2 to 3 marriages end in divorce. That’s 40-60%”

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I—I hardly know, Sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

“What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar, sternly. “Explain yourself!”

“I ca’n’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir,” said Alice, “because I am not myself, you see.” 

https://psychologenie.com/facts-about-alice-in-wonderland-syndrome

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are no divorce rates which brake down the according to the demographics of race, religion. I think there might be according to ages.

In the west 2 to 3 marriages end in divorce according to a variety of figures. Not sure what western marriages mean, since according to the laws, of most most countries establish marriage, is between two people and for a marriage to be legal regardless of the religion of the couple the marriage must be registered with the government.

Are there more Christian divorces than Muslim Hindu, Pagan, non believers etc. I don't know. In Europe Ireland has the lowest divorce rate of about 14% probably because of the influence of the catholic church but then that can't be said for Spain and Portugal which were the first two to except GAY marriage.

International marriages also have higher rates of divorce.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi: “In the (W)est 2 to 3 marriages end in divorce”

You need to get clear in your head that this 2/3 of Western marriages will end in divorce is simply untrue. Half your problem seems to be how to employ ratio in an argument. 2 to 3 out of 5 (ie 40-60%) is correct. But you’ve clearly stated that 2/3 (60%) of Western marriages will end in divorce which, except for a handful of individual countries, is not true as an overall figure.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@TheLongTermer: Many Japanese are in sexless and loveless marriages, so they have love affairs to cope with the misery, which basically is the same things as a divorce, but they wont divorce because marriage in Japan, like everything else, is an obligation. Divorce = shame or haji. So they will stay together, for the children, because of the shame of divorce, and the obligation to their inlaws and parents. Its a very weird dynamic.

Are you pointing the finger at me? It sure feels like that...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ zichi and oyatoi

Are you really picking a fight because you have different interpretations of 2/3 ?

First interpretation : 2/3 = in between 2 and 3 = then linked with the 5 : in between 40 and 60%

Second interpretation : 2/3 = 2 thirds = then linked with the 5 : 66,67 %

but at the end of the day, Japanese women have generally good hygiene

Just to say, it is pretty usual that hygiene of people is good after washing themselves which happen at the end of the day in these part. After, I didn't have some good information about the issue of washing hand in public women toilet. So for the good hygiene, I guess it depend of the individual.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yeah, I also note you guys don't seem to notice that divorce rates are lower in countries where women have less economic power. Why be surprised that Japan has low divorce rates when single mothers live in poverty with zero hope of climbing out of it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites